Yet another year of gridlock has passed. It’s time for our lawmakers to finally come together and pass the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA). If implemented, here’s what will happen locally on the Kootenai National Forest (KNF):
• The act would mandate that 3,000 acres be mechanically treated annually for a minimum of 10 years. This number does not include prescribed burning and this provision provides opportunities for treating overstocked fuels, beginning in the wildland urban interface closest to private property, and will reduce hazardous fuels that threaten our communities.
• The act will also help make fiber available for processing in area mills. Projects would be carried out under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (which saves the federal treasury time and money) and will be encouraged to use stewardship contracts in order to complete the work (which creates jobs in restoration forestry activities – such as forest thinning, stand improvements and road restoration – for the purpose of enhancing watersheds and critical fish and wildlife habitat).
• FJRA will establish permanent snowmobiling areas in portions of Northwest Peaks, Buckhorn Ridge and Mount Henry areas. It also provides permanent non-motorized recreation areas for backcountry skiing in these areas as well. The boundary lines for these areas were drawn and placed by the local people who use them.
• FJRA will also establish Roderick Wilderness. These remote 29,467 acres represent 1.3 percent of the total KNF land-base and will provide permanent protection for big game wildlife habitat for generations to come. Within one year of passage of FJRA, a study and report must be completed that details opportunities for expanded non-controversial all-terrain vehicles routes on the KNF. And results from this report will be implemented through a local collaborative group working with the KNF.
If one silences the outside rhetoric from both sides and looks at what FJRA will do locally on the KNF, it’s clear that positive, homegrown and bipartisan solutions for our public lands can be rewarded with economic and recreational opportunities. Just as the local people who participated in the Three Rivers Challenge set aside their differences to find common-ground, it’s time for Washington D.C. to find the right opportunity to pass the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.
Three Rivers Challenge Partnership
Wayne Hirst, Hirst and Associates
Tim Linehan, Linehan Outfitting Company
Robyn King, Yaak Valley Forest Council
Donna O’Neil, Member, Libby Sno-Kats
Jerry Wandler, Troy Snowmobile Club
Rick Bass, Yaak Valley Forest Council
Joel Chandler, Kootenai Ridge Riders